The Monster Beside Me

There’s a monster that lives in my house. He’s not terrifying all of the time, but he is sometimes. He’s been around since I can remember, and to be honest, I’m rather used to him. Though I don’t think that’s a good thing. Because he’s not always harmless.

He looks somewhat like a creature from a lagoon, with large eyes and pointed teeth. Sometimes he looks more menacing than others, a truly frightening monster. And some days we sit across from each other, and I drink my tea and stare at him and swear that maybe he’s not that scary. Those are the days when we’re almost comfortable. It’s those moments when I wonder if maybe I’m trying to hard to get rid of him? Is he all bad? And then there are the days when he’s horrifying, too awful to explain. I spend every second running from him, everything else washed away by panic and terror. Those are the times when I hate him.

When I write, he sits beside me. Sometimes the ideas he gives me are good. But more often than not he silences me, keeps me from writing the things I think or feel. When I speak, he sometimes speaks for me. When I think, he tells me how to feel. The days when I’m strong, I tell him that I want to think on my own, for myself. And he lets me. But the days when I’m not, it’s easy to listen to his opinions and take them as my own. And they’re almost never positive. They never give me hope.

I used to think my day would come. That there would be a grand battle between us, with me as the victor. One fight, the battle that would vanquish the monster once and for all. I set the stage, set a date and time. Tomorrow, we’ll fight and I’ll win. Next week, after meditation we’ll fight and I’ll for sure win. Next month, after I start writing more then I’ll be ready. And we did fight, many times. And many times I thought I had won. But inevitably he always came back. And eventually I realized the rather sad truth… I’ll never have the opportunity to be rid of him permanently. Not really anyway. The reality will never be that glorious. Instead it’s a thousand daily decisions. To fight, or to give in. I choose wrong so often, and so many times a day. It’s easy to make the wrong choice. Sometimes it seems like the less painful alternative. In the long run though it’s always the choice that ends up hurting more in the end. I’ve realized after years of living with him that he will always be there. My life is a series of choices that empower him or leave him tamed and unable to hurt anymore.

My monster may not be physically real, but he is absolutely real to me in my mind. Anxiety is a force, an overpowering presence, something that has substance and weight. It’s this weight that sits in my mind, and overwhelms me. I wish I knew the solution, the way to send him back to where he came. But I don’t. Instead I run from him when I’m weak or tired. And I confront him when I’m strong.

Two days ago I stood in the darkness and I faced him. It was terrifying. I wanted to flee, in fact everything told me that I should. My instincts told me that this was reckless, that I was in danger. That if I did face him, that I wouldn’t be able to handle the consequences. The thoughts attacked me like hundreds of arrows. I stood firm and I willed myself to stay. In my mind I held images of those things that sustain me, images of happiness, of possibilities. Of the uncharted waters of a new year. The storm beat at me and I allowed the waves of fear and anxiety to wash over me. There was nothing now but hope versus fear. The two forces fought fiercely and I stood, trapped in the middle.

We stood this way for a long time. I felt weak, and tired. But I held on. And when the storm passed, I opened my eyes. I looked around. The room was dark, except for a little bit of sun coming through the window. I walked over to the window and peered out. The light was faint, but it was there. I touched the pane. It felt cold under my fingers. In the reflection behind me I could see that he was gone. It had been a painful fight.

He will be back. He always is. But what I’ve learned is that moments like these, rejoicing in the small moments of victory, add up to big moments. I hold out hope that one day he will take a much smaller role in my life. I don’t know when that day will come. The way I feel right now, I don’t know that it will be soon. But I am willing to fight for it.


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